The Act created in particular two helpful provisions that licensees can take advantage of, these being the fast track pavement licence process and temporary off sales of alcohol permissions for premises licences.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that these provisions have been widely used by licensees and many of our clients have commented upon how useful these have been in helping licensees get back on their feet post pandemic.
Fast Track Pavement Licences
As a reminder, the fast track pavement licence process allowed for a ‘fast-track’ system for licensees to use the public highway for tables and chairs costing no more than £100, no planning permission is required and once the application is submitted the consultation period is just five working days followed by a further five working days for the local authority to make a decision.
Licences can granted up to a year (but not beyond 30 September 2022) but if granted should be granted for at least 3 months. The benefit for licensees is that this is a swifter process than the standard tables and chairs process which (dependent on local authority) can be a cumbersome, long winded (minimum 28-day consultation period) and more costly.
The fast track pavement licence process, which is due to expire on 30 September 2022, may be made permanent, and if it is this will be welcome news for some licensees. There is likely to be further news in due course, at which stage licensees will need to consider re-applying for their tables and chairs licences prior to the current one expiring in September, and hopefully this will be under a permanent fast track process.
Unless legislation is amended, there is a snag with fast track pavement licences, unlike ‘standard’ tables and chairs licences under the Highways Act 1980 which are exempt, fast track pavement licences are not exempt from the effect of Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) adopted by a local authority to enforce restrictions on alcohol consumption within designated public areas.
PSPOs do not make it an offence to drink alcohol in a public place but it is an offence to fail to comply with a police officer’s request to stop drinking or to surrender alcohol without reasonable excuse in such an area. Some local authorities are taking this to mean that alcohol cannot be consumed in fast track pavement licence areas covered by PSPOs which is non-sensical when it can be consumed in an area covered by a tables and chairs licence issued under The Highways Act 1980 and when fast track pavement licences were included in the same piece of legislation permitting a premises to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises when not so permitted on the face of the premises licence!
Temporary Off Sales Permissions
As you may recall, the Act also created a temporary relaxation around off sales of alcohol, permitting a temporary authorisation for sale of alcohol off the premises for operators with a premises licence that only permits on sales as well as disapplying any condition on a premises licence that does authorise off sales of alcohol, where the condition restricts deliveries or the taking away of alcohol in open containers.
These relaxations are all subject to a cut off time of 23:00 and licensees simply need to display a notice in the appropriate form at the premises stating they are taking advantage of the relaxation under the Act.
With regards to the temporary off sale alcohol relaxation, again this benefit is due to expire on the 30 September 2022. However, unlike the fast-track pavement licence process, we are not aware of any intention from the Government to make this a permanent provision once the relaxation expires. Therefore, licensees who are using this off sales relaxation to operate takeaway or online delivery of alcohol or utilise unlicensed external customers areas for consumption of alcohol, post September 2022 will need to apply for a variation of your premises licence to add off sales authorisation and/or amend their premises licence conditions.
This update on the Business & Planning Act will hopefully provide some food for thought for licensees as you plan and prepare for the operation of your premises post 30th September 2022. As always, if you are unsure as to the licensing position with regard to your premises and its authorisations, you can contact us at Poppleston Allen for licensing advice.